The rideshare company that once put pink mustaches on cars is launching a new change intended to lure women and nonbinary riders and drivers, as those riders can now specifically request a woman driver in San Francisco and San Jose.
Back in 2019, the rideshare company Lyft was dogged by lawsuits claiming driver sexual harassment of women riders. So they did an internal study on the problem, finding 3,000 cases of sexual harassment in three years, and promptly never conducted that study again. But the problem lingers, and according to Bloomberg, the company is being “pushed by investors and users to increase safety protections.”
And so Lyft is taking some manner of new proactive measure. The New York Times reports that Lyft is rolling out a new feature that lets women riders specifically request women and nonbinary drivers on the platform.
The feature is called Women+ Connect and its interface is seen above, in design that looks like male designers’ idea of ‘This image would appeal to women, but leave out the salad.’ Both drivers and riders who are women or nonbinary get the option to opt in, and the app will do its best to connect riders with women and nonbinary drivers.
Though as the Today show’s write-up points out, the users of the Women+ Connect feature “will increase their chances of being connected with a woman or nonbinary driver,” but the feature does not guarantee you won’t get a male driver. As Bloomberg explains, the feature will be rolled out in select cities, to drivers and riders who identify as women or nonbinary in the app, or have “commonly identifiable” women’ names.
Lyft being a Silicon Valley company, their motivations here are largely financial. As the Times points out, Lyft riders are half women, but only 23% of its drivers are women, and they hope to recruit more. (Before they ultimately replace them with robots).
“Women drivers like the flexibility that [Lyft] offers for earnings, but there are times, you know, late at night, or Saturday night when things get a little rowdy, that they think to themselves gosh, I just don’t always feel comfortable,” Lyft CEO David Risher told Bloomberg.
This is a pilot program that will be rolled out in a limited number of cities, including San Francisco and San Jose, plus Chicago, Phoenix, and San Diego. According to Bloomberg, it could be launched nationwide by the end of the year.
Image: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 20: An air traveler walks toward a Lyft pickup area at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 20, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Uber and Lyft drivers held a rally earlier at the airport calling for basic employment rights. An appeals court granted Lyft and Uber an emergency stay from needing to classify drivers as employees allowing ride-sharing services to continue after a threatened shutdown in California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)